Skip to main content

2019 Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards Winner: "Lullaby" by Nancy Shea

Congratulations to Nancy Shea! Her poem, "Lullaby," is the winner of the 2019 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards.

Every year, I am excited to receive the new crop of poems for the annual Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards. Then, I’m challenged with the task of picking one poem to win the entire competition.

Poetry-300x220

It’s no easy task to rank one poem above another, especially when considering the diversity of poetry. There’s always a range of poetic forms, including free verse, covering a variety of subjects and expressing a myriad set of moods.

As usual, there were many strong contenders for the top spot after going through around 1,000 entries. Ultimately, it came down to which excellent poem spoke to me more than any of the other great entries.

This year, I selected “Lullaby” by Nancy Shea for the Grand Prize. Shea will receive $1,000, a free video download of Build an Audience for Your Poetry from the Writer’s Digest Shop, and a 20-minute consultation with yours truly.

See a complete list of the 2019 Poetry Awards winners.

“Lullaby” by Nancy Shea

The oak leaves High this August afternoon

Drop a net of light and shadow

from the treetops Onto the sidewalk below

Cool the cheek of the infant sleeping His mother swaying under the branches

And I remember you as you were

fingers, lashes, tiny tendrils curling before the kaleidoscope of smaller roundnesses

Irises blooming hallow pools of darkness

sharp wind in the branches the violent letting go

two leaves pleading from one bough falling

side by side cradle-like descending

two cupped hands snapped at the wrist

falling in summer

you whispering Mother, is that all there is?

I loved all the finalist poems, but “Lullaby” swept me away for several reasons. The opening lines drew me in with the visual of an oak tree in August dropping “a net of light and shadow from the treetops onto the sidewalk below” that shades a swaying mother and infant child sleeping.

Then, this scene sparks the narrator to remember her child and an intriguing mystery that involves “pools of darkness,” “violent letting go,” and “two cupped hands snapped at the wrist.” All of it riffing off the popular “Rock-a-Bye Baby” lullaby.

The WD Poetry Awards call for unpublished, original poems of 32 lines or fewer. The top 25 winners receive a download of Build an Audience for Your Poetry and recognition on WritersDigest.com.

Shelley Burr: On Writing About Rage in Crime Fiction

Shelley Burr: On Writing About Rage in Crime Fiction

Author Shelley Burr discusses the less altruistic side of amateur sleuths in her debut crime novel, WAKE.

Sew vs. So vs. Sow (Grammar Rules)

Sew vs. So vs. Sow (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between sew, so, and sow with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Using Beats To Improve Dialogue and Action in Scenes

Using Beats To Improve Dialogue and Action in Scenes

For many writers, dialogue is one of the most difficult things to get right. Here, author and educator Audrey Wick shares how to use beats to improve dialogue and action in scenes.

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore: On Introducing Russian History to Fantasy Readers

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore: On Introducing Russian History to Fantasy Readers

Author Olesya Salnikova Gilmore discusses the changes her manuscript underwent throughout the writing process of her debut historical fantasy novel, The Witch and the Tsar.

Freelance Food Writing: How to Break Into the Industry

Freelance Food Writing: How to Break Into the Industry

Food writer Deanna Martinez-Bey shares her advice on breaking into the freelance food-writing industry, including finding your niche, pitching ideas, and more.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Red Line Moment

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Red Line Moment

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have somebody cross your character's red line.

Hafizah Augustus Geter: On Confronting Complicated Questions When Writing Memoir

Hafizah Augustus Geter: On Confronting Complicated Questions When Writing Memoir

Award-winning writer Hafizah Augustus Geter discusses how her experience as a poet helped her take on her new memoir, The Black Period.

6 Ways To Collaborate With Other Writers Ahead of Your Book Launch

6 Ways To Collaborate With Other Writers Ahead of Your Book Launch

Writer Aileen Weintraub shares how to find your writing community in the process of launching your book.

Martha Anne Toll: On the Power of Memory

Martha Anne Toll: On the Power of Memory

Author Martha Anne Toll discusses the mythology that inspired her debut novel, Three Muses.